Friday, 15 October 2010

The Social Network - Review

The sheer concept of The Social Network pretty much demonstrates why I could never be actively involved in the film industry - outside of a critical capacity of course. If one was to approach me with the idea for an origin story set around the global phenomenon Facebook, I would have laughed them straight out of the office. Which would have been a crying shame, because I would have cheated a lot of people out of an excellent film.

David Fincher, with the help of screenwriter Aaron Sorkin - chief writer of The West Wing - crafts a beautifully told tale based on the real life events, albeit with a few artistic liberties taken here and there, at time mimicking the cinematic classic, Citizen Kane.

The film follows Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) from his - not so -humble beginnings as an overly obsessed computer geek blogging in his Harvard dorm room, all the way to his world famous law suits with his once former partners - which resulted in some of the messier court cases seen this century.

Regardless of how accurate Zuckerberg's portrayal was, Sorkin still managed to construct a truly gripping character study - much to the credit of Eisenberg's brilliantly witty and neurotic performance. Unlike Orson Welles' iconic Charles Foster Kane, Zuckerberg seemed to rarely be interested in money or power (though I bet he's not really complaining about it now), and didn't seem to even invent Facebook for that sole reason.

His true motivations were far more fascinating. Instead of having this young, hotshot, college student trying to make a more "open world", we get a man who is petty, spiteful and ironically one of the most socially inept people you're ever likely to encounter. There is an overwhelming feeling, from the film, he made Facebook just to prove a point that he could, rather than intending to start a revolution - much to MySpace and Bebo's dismay I'm sure.

The supporting performances from the well conceived ensemble were just as vital to this brilliant drama as Eisenberg's. However it was safe to say, mostly, no one came out of The Social Network with their reputations intact. The only real exception was co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, played with a degree of sympathy and honest emotion by the excellent Andrew Garfield. Which is strange because, in a way, he represented the greedy capitalist side of the tale. He joined Zuckerberg in this ambitious venture because he wanted to make money, and often came to blows with his original partner because of their clashing of visions for the company. Despite these conflicts, Saverin was possibly Zuckerberg's only true friend, making their colossal lawsuit all the more tragic in the end.

Justin Timberlake's rise as a creditable actor continued with a solid performance as the bane of the music industry and inventor of the once mighty Napster (remember that?), Sean Parker. He was brash, arrogant and helped Facebook become the global force we've come to know it as today. Parker's character was interesting because he often came across as the evil little voice whispering everything and anything into Zuckerberg's ear. The accuracy of these accounts are definitely open to interpretation, regardless however, it still makes for genuinely gripping cinema.

Adding a bit of light hearted comedy to the darkly proceedings was Armie Hammer's dual roles as both Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. They were typically like every other preppy American university jock we've seen time and time again from countless John Hughes movies to the likes of Animal House. The hilarity being the conflict between the pair on whether to take action or not - with one brother desperately wanting to take Zuckerberg down, while the other shows his reluctance based on the simple reason it's ungentlemanly for a man of Harvard to go down such a petty route.

The other most notable contribution to the film was the surprisingly minor role of Rooney Mara as Zuckerberg's disenchanted girlfriend at the very beginning of the film. Her, quite reasonable, rejection of Mark's horrid spite kick starts the whole Facebook phenomenon into action. And once all is said and done, and Zuckerberg has been revealed to be nothing but a lonely abominable billionaire who has subsequently screwed over everyone who has ever tried to help him, the film's closing moments hint at slight redemption for the character. Something Charles F. Kane never really had the pleasure of experiencing until his final dying moments.

I've spent much of this review praising the strong, well developed characters created. However, much praise should also go to Fincher's ability to tell a brilliant story oozing with atmosphere and even a degree of intensity. He even covers his own artist licence on the story-telling with this quite touching scene involving Zuckerberg and one of his own council when he admits, "I'm not a bad person" and the female lawyer admitting that a lot of these depictions in lawsuits that often completely exaggerated to benefit of the plaintiff. Strangely adding some sympathy for an otherwise deeply troubled individual.

The film's rich and darkly elegant atmosphere is also heavily attributed to the truly fantastic electronic/ambient score composed by Nine Inch Nails' frontman Trent Reznor and famed musician Atticus Ross, which results in one of the most distinctive film soundtracks seen in a film all year. Actually listening to it while I type...

Final Thoughts
Given the absurdity of the film's basic premise, would it be fair to say David Fincher is something of a film-making genius for actually making this work? A truly fascinating drama about the conception of a website which has defined the past decade. Facebook isn't just a social networking site, it's an addictive way of life for a lot of people (something this critic is even guilty of). Will The Social Network's portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg be one of cinema's great villains for the ages, or equally one of its most tragic? Either way I'm clicking the "like" button on this movie...*


See This If You Liked...
Citizen Kane, 21, Wall Street, Hackers.

The Social Network is in cinemas everywhere now.

*Can't believe I just said that

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